Scottish woman becomes first sound artist to win Turner Prize | Arts | DW | 07.12.2010
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Scottish woman becomes first sound artist to win Turner Prize

In line with its tradition of controversy, the Turner Prize for 2010 was awarded to a woman who specializes in sound installation. Critics argue that this is not art.

Susan Philipsz inside her sound installation 'Lowlands'

Philipsz created her artwork with nothing but sound

Berlin-based artist Susan Philipsz has won Britain's Turner Prize for her sound installation featuring a 16th-century Scottish lament song. This makes her the first sound artist in history to receive the award, which has been dominated by conceptual visual art.

The Glasgow-born artist's work, entitled "Lowlands," is a sound installation based on "Lowlands Away" - a song about a man drowned at sea who returns to tell his lover of his death.

"It has been overwhelming, the wonderful responses I've been getting for the work and I just didn't expect that," Philipsz said while receiving the award - endowed with 25,000 pounds ($39,000) - at the Tate Britain museum in London.

Not to everyone's taste

An untrained singer, Philipsz performed three versions of the song unaccompanied and then mixed together the recordings echoing off the underside of bridges in Glasgow, creating a unique sound.

Despite the work's success, it has been criticized as not being real art. The Stuckists, an art group opposed to the Turner Prize, said the award should not go to a "singer."

Tracy Emin's installation My Bed

Emin's "My Bed" caused a stir over a decade ago

"It's just someone singing in an empty room," they wrote in advance of the winner announcement. "It's not art. It's music."

The Turner Prize has a reputation for honoring unusual works and has been the subject of many controversies. Previous winning exhibits include Martin Creed's installation "The Lights Going On and Off," which featured lamps in an otherwise empty room, and a bronze sculpture by the Chapman Brothers called "Death," which resembled two blow-up sex dolls.

In 1999, a lot of criticism was directed at Tracey Emin's shortlisted exhibit "My Bed," which was a double bed in an abject state, with stained sheets and surrounded by soiled underwear, condoms, slippers and bottles.

The Turner Prize is awarded annually to artists born in Britain who may be working abroad or any artists based in the United Kingdom. It is organized by the Tate gallery and staged at Tate Britain. Since coming into existence in 1984, it has become the UK's most publicized art award.

Author: Eva Wutke (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Kate Bowen

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